Erika Winters is the editor of Pricescope’s popular blog, as well as an independent jewelry designer based here in Seattle. We asked her about her love for the jewelry industry, what inspires her, and how fundamentally meaningful it is for people to adorn themselves in jewelry and clothing.
How did you come to be in the jewelry industry?
My background is in theatre and dance—with movement-based theatre being my focus prior to entering the jewelry industry. I worked in theatre for many years in Chicago and Los Angeles before I met my husband Peter, who later proposed with a diamond engagement ring. That ring changed everything. It was not only my first piece of fine jewelry outside of special family gifts, but it launched an entire career, as I dove headfirst into the glorious world of jewelry. It wasn’t just the ring itself, it was everything that it symbolized.
And then I fell down the rabbit hole completely, as I had to learn as much as possible about diamonds, colored gemstones and ultimately, design. I entered the graduate gemologist program—in residence at GIA—and began working in the industry. I started in sales in antique and vintage jewelry and then I started a freelance jewelry-writing career. In the midst of that, I taught myself how to photograph jewelry and developed a signature image style. Then, in March 2014, I launched my first collection of engagement rings after exploring jewelry design for my own personal pieces and for others for several years. And just a week ago I debuted a new wedding band collection. It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve loved every second of it!
I consider you something of a renaissance woman: you’re a photographer, you write for Pricescope’s blog, and you are a designer. How do you balance everything and keep developing your skills in each capacity?
That’s so lovely, thank you! My design work has served to enhance and develop my other skills. I shoot my own designs for my website and for social media. And, after years of celebrating and writing about other jewelry designers, I’ve had to write about my own collections to further my story. It’s incredibly challenging to write about oneself! I’m a highly motivated person who is often developing new work and concepts. So for me, balance is about taking necessary breaks to rest. But basically, I live and breathe jewelry, so the development is ongoing.
Why do you think jewelry resonates with so many men and women?
That’s a huge question. Jewelry goes so far beyond adornment, as it’s a form of ancient expression that is completely personal to the wearer. We are hardwired to express ourselves and also to collect objects from which we derive meaning. Even the Neanderthals wore jewelry! I was recently reading a story about how they made jewelry from eagle talons some 130,000 years ago. It’s instinctual. From style choices to the most heartfelt personal keepsakes, jewelry is part of who we are.
What, or who, inspires you?
Women inspire me for the most part. From the books I read to the designers and artists I admire, it’s incredible creative women that make my world go ‘round. I’ll be reading about a historical period as I research for my design work, and it’s the women and their stories that propel me forward.
You are very active on social media: how do you think the digital world is influencing jewelry and fashion, and vice versa?
The digital world is everything in my book, but I don’t have a storefront, and my work is almost entirely promoted online. Walk outside and see how many people are glued to their mobile devices. In jewelry and fashion, so much is shared digitally that social media sharing is now as important as live in-person viewing.
Do you think women face unique challenges in the jewelry industry?
I do, and I don’t. While this industry is largely male dominated, it’s the women I see thriving as independent company owners and entrepreneurs. And in the crucial social media realms, women are innovating and making strides at a great pace. But wage inequality is an unfortunate reality in our industry. And I think some of these great female entrepreneurs and industry leaders aim to change that. Shout out to the Women’s Jewelry Association!
Tell us about your jewelry collection: do you have a few favorite pieces? Do they have a story?
I collect antique-cut diamonds, and I’ve set many of them in custom designs over the years. My current favorite is an old European cut diamond set in my Thea halo design that makes my heart sing. The ring was inspired by my mother and is a play on a few themes that she and I both love together.
What are some of your goals for the future?
My goal is to keep moving forward in my design business. And one major goal within my larger scope is to hire incredible women to be a part of my team and to pay it forward.
At Ritani, we love to celebrated talented jewelry designers – both the up-and-coming, and the established. Explore our Designer Collections, and learn more about the unique inspiration behind every jeweler’s creations.